PREVIEW: Bregenz will host the qualification group 2, and the winner will earn the right to play in the VELUX EHF Champions League’s Group D
Four teams meet in Bregenz in hopes of Group D berth
There are only two tickets left for this season’s group phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League and eight teams are set to battle it out. While Gorenje Velenje and Tatran Presov are the outright favourites in Group 1, the situation is not as straightforward in Group 2.
The stakes are high, as the winner will earn the right to play alongside HBC Nantes, TTH Holstebro, HC Motor Zaporozhye, Besiktas Mogaz HT and Dinamo Bucuresti in Group D of the Europe’s top competition.
Since Bregenz hosts the tournament, the Austrian side have the home court advantage and are favourites against the Belgian champions, Achilles Bocholt. The other game will feature the Portuguese champions, ABC/UMinho and Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv, with the winners set to fight on Sunday for the grand prize.
All matches will be streamed live on ehfTV.com and fans will also be able to follow the live ticker and on the EHF’s official Champions League twitter.
GROUP 2 PREVIEW
Bregenz Handball (AUT) vs Achilles Bocholt (BEL)
Saturday, 3 September, 16:45 local hrs in Bregenz, live on ehfTV.com
The days when Bregenz Handball were sure to make it to the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase are long gone. The Austrian side has failed to qualify for the European top competition for the last seven years, but are roaring to get back again into the top flight.
The stakes are high, but the start of the season finds Bregenz in top form. The Austrian side has an important win under their belt, winning the Austrian Supercup, 31:28, against HC Fivers WAT Margareten.
This is their their first trophy after a six-year drought, as the hosts avenged their defeat in the championship against Fivers.
“Now we must focus on the most important objective of the season, qualifying for the group phase of the Champions League.
“We must remain focused on winning two games this weekend,” commented Bregenz manager, Christoph Makovec.
However, Achilles Bocholt won’t be such an easy opponent for the hosts. The Belgian side started their pre-season with a, 33:31, win in the BENE-league against Vise, and will look to cause problems also in Austria.
But Bregenz are set to continue their winning ways: “The win in the Supercup means a lot for us and helped us get set into battle mode for the tournament. We are ready and we hope we will win both games,” concluded Bregenz’s right wing Marian Klopcic.
ABC/UMinho (POR) vs Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv (ISR)
Saturday, 3 September, 19:30 local hrs in Bregenz, live on ehfTV.com
Only FC Porto and Sporting CP have won more Portuguese titles than ABC/UMinho Braga. However, the current champions have waited nine years for another win.
Last season helped erase all the bad memories from the previous years. ABC were on the top of their game and powered to win their maiden EHF Challenge Cup.
The first outing of the season was not an easy one, ABC lost the Portuguese Supercup, 24:25, against Benfica.
“I am sad because we lost a trophy. But we need to pick ourselves up and put on a fight in the next games, especially in the European ones,” commented Humberto Gomes, ABC’s goalkeeper.
The first chance to prove themselves will be on Saturday, when the Portuguese champions face Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv. The Israeli side whose only previous European cup experience is a loss against Romanian side Potaissa Turda, in the EHF Cup Qualification Round 1 last season.
The Israeli outfit is seen to be the underdogs in the game, but Braga will be ready for everything their opponents bring to the table.
The runners-up and the third team of this qualification group will play in the EHF Cup Qualification Round 3, while the bottom ranked team will move into the second round of qualification facing the winner of the Round 1 tie between Csurgói KK and Bodö HK.
TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / bc